Man sentenced for random sex assault on girl (14) in busy shop
Girl used to love shopping with her mother but incident in Penneys left her apprehensive, court told
The court heard the defendant admitted contact with the girl but he denied there was any sexual intent.
A man who grabbed a 14-year-old girl by her private parts as she walked by him in a busy Cork city store has walked free from court after serving two months in jail for the offence.
Michel Toner from MacSwiney Quay, Bandon, Co Cork had denied the sexual assault of the girl at Penneys in Cork city centre on July 3rd 2018 when he went on trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in February but a jury found him guilty.
Toner (51) was remanded in custody by Judge O’Callaghan until Wednesday when Judge Sean O Donabhain dealt with the matter after being given an outline of the facts by Det Garda Brian Murphy.
Det Garda Murphy said the victim was in town with her mother on July 3rd 2018 when Toner walked into her path and without any warning, grabbed her private parts only to be confronted by the girl’s mother before walking away.
The girl told in a victim impact statement delivered earlier how she used to love to go shopping with her mother but the incident had left her apprehensive about going into Cork.
“I was very upset and crying - in the beginning I was thinking about it all the time .... I hope he will be seen for who he is and for what he done,” she said before thanking investigator, Garda Don McCarthy and Support after Crime.
Defence barrister, Niamh Stewart said her client had no previous convictions for sexual offences while she also said the sexual assault was at the lower end of the scale for such offences, involving touching through the girl’s clothing.
Ms Stewart pointed out the DPP had taken a similar view as she (the DPP) had consented to the matter being dealt with in the District Court but Toner had opted for trial by judge and jury in the Circuit Court.
“He has never been before this court before. He has severe depression. He has found (being remanded in custody) very difficult. He is on medication. He will be on the sex offenders register. His life is basically turned upside down.”
Pleading for leniency, Ms Stewart said her client, who lived alone in Bandon, had a job waiting for him on his release from prison and had family support.
Judge O Donabhain noted that a probation report found that Toner was at a low risk of re-offending while it also suggested he has some awareness of the wrong that he had done to his victim and the impact on her.
“This is a somewhat unusual case of sexual assault, happening in a public place, in a store, in daylight business hours and where there was no previous contact between the parties,” he said.
“He had no knowledge of this girl and there was nothing to bring them together other than passing each other in the shop. He dropped his hand on the girl and touched her intimately.
“He admitted contact with her but he denied there was any sexual intent. The jury found otherwise. The girl is correct in her account of what happened to her. She was shocked as to why it happened, it was so unexpected.”
Judge O Donabhain imposed an 18-month jail sentence on Toner, backdated to when he went into custody after the jury found him guilty on February 11th but he suspended the balance of the sentence.